Last night I dropped into the first day of YMT:UKs summer studio – a residential course at Fettes College for kids from all over the UK. They started at 2pm yesterday (Mon) and by Sat 1pm (audience welcome) they will have created a unique piece of Musical Theatre. For many it’s their first time away from home. For some it’s a welcome respite from being a young carer of a parent or relative where they have grown up toooo fast, and this is a great chance to rediscover their inner child. For some it’s a chance to be spotted and get chosen for a show at the Edinburgh Festival Fringe in years to come. For some it’s just summer fun.
Kath and I watched director Eddie Latter bring a sense of discipline and purpose to the kids – respect for each other, respect for the space, with enough release to let out all that energy from these 11 to 19 year olds. Meanwhile Edinburgh composer/md Jodi Oliver was preparing to create songs with and for the company. Eddie’s chosen an unexpected subject for a 5 day one-off musical project – The Aberfan disaster where 145 lost their lives (116 of them children) when a coal waste tip slid onto a village. How do bright young people in 2008 relate to that. I was just 8 in 1966 when children my age died so horrifically. I remember seeing the headlines and being encouraged to have an emotional reaction. Well they all live in the wake of Sept 11th.
As we left them seven groups were bringing to life in seven short improvisions the same picture found by Eddie on a trip to Aberfan recently – of a group of kids on top of the waste tip after the disaster getting on with the future. Musical Theatre can be created from any subject – especially one where there is a dramatic moment that “sings” to us in so many ways. YMT:UK has one project at the Festival this year – MISSING MEL which looks at young people’s reaction when a colleague goes missing at school. Created with lessons plans for teachers in association with the NASUWT, once again a hard hitting subject with real relevance to young people today (George 1 Wed 13-Sat16 11.30am, and Fri 15th 8.30pm – 5 perfs to choose from).
Tomorrow another YMT company starts in Aberdeen looking at the Pagan myths, festivals and characters in pre-Christian Scotland whilst another company starts creating a work on Endangered Species in Plymouth.Last year’s MTM:UK awards raised awareness of a musical FAILED STATES about anti terrorism legislation – a powerful piece of classic Musical Theatre – by Des O’Connor and Andrew Taylor. Des is back this year as the Devil in AND THE DEVIL MAY DRAG YOU UNDER and he and Andy are also showcasing (outwith the Fringe diary) their new piece in a quiet reading at the end of the month entitled SLOW MOTION SUICIDE. So across the UK young people and emerging UK writers are tackling powerful topics…in time they will draw audiences to explore the challenges with them. There’s always a place for BIG BRUVVA The Musical and WHISKEY KISSES to release our sense of fun, but it will be great in 5-10 years time to be seeing these complemented by Musical Theatre work which might play to new drama and new film audiences.
Here’s to great discoveries this Festival. If you want to visit the Aberfan piece head to http://www.youth-music-theatre.org.uk/edinburgh2008 and explore their site.